10/12 russian driving networks


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10/12 russian driving networks

  1. 1. New Jersey/New York Russian Driving NetworksThe following document provides an overview of Russian Driving Networks as they exist within the northern New Jersey/New York area,including: typical characteristics, potential victim profiles, vulnerabilities to human trafficking, and recent convictions. This document is intendedto provide a basic understanding of these networks and should not be viewed as exhaustive.An Overview of Russian Driving Networks:Russian Driving Networks primarily recruit and employ Eastern European and/or Russian women and supplythem to go-go clubs and strip clubs in the United States, including in New York and New Jersey. Once the womenarrive in the United States, the driving network employs and houses the women, transports them to and from theclubs, and coordinates the activities of the women’s lives. The driving networks provide a steady stream of newdancers to the clubs, filling a staffing need for the clubs and enabling them to “outsource” to labor recruiters.There are many characteristics of the driving agencies which could make the women vulnerable to becomingvictims of human trafficking. The full geographic scope of these networks in the U.S. is not clear.Selected Federal Laws that are Applicable to the Driving NetworksThe Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal act to combat humantrafficking in the US. Actions taken by the driving networks may constitute “severe forms of trafficking in persons”and may be considered labor trafficking and/or sex trafficking.oLabor trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of aperson for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection toinvoluntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”1oSex trafficking is defined as “a commercial sex act [that] is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or inwhich the person induced to perform such an act has not yet attained 18 years of age.”2Typical Operational Characteristics Operators- Driving networks are typically run by Russians/Eastern Europeans or naturalized citizens fromthese regions, occasionally with a connection to organized crime, though the extent of this connection isnot fully known. Recruitment- Women are often recruited in Eastern Europe and Russia to work in the United States,sometimes with the knowledge that they will be supplied to go-go clubs or strip clubs, and other timeswithout any indication of the type of work they are coming to do. Walter Zalisko, a retired Police Chiefwhose expertise is in Russian Organized Crime, has interviewed nearly 300 women, three fourths of whomsay they were promised other work but were forced into the sex trade upon arriving in the US.3 Hours- The women often work 6-7 days a week from late in the afternoon to early the next morning for10 hours a day or more, not including transportation time. The ride from Brighton Beach, NY to NewJersey can take up to two hours because of several stops to drop off the women at different clubs. Womenmay leave their home at 3:00 PM and return at 6:00 AM on a typical day. Fees- The driving network usually charges the women a daily fee of approximately $55 for transportationto and from the club. Additional daily fees the women are charged include a “house fee,” paid to the club122 U.S.C. § 7102.2ibid3Walter Zalisko, "Russian Organizaed Crime: Trafficking in Women and Governments Response," PMCI Group, 1999,http://www.policeconsultant.com/index6.htm (accessed October 07, 2010).This publication was made possible in part through Grant Number 90ZV0087 from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, Office of RefugeeResettlement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do notnecessarily represent the official views of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, Office of Refugee Resettlement, or HHS.Polaris Project | National Human Trafficking Resource Center | 1-888-3737-888 | NHTRC@PolarisProject.orgwww.PolarisProject.org © Copyright Polaris Project, 2011. All Rights Reserved
  2. 2. New Jersey/New York Russian Driving Networks At-A-Glance | Polaris Projectfor providing a place to perform (around $40), a fee for the DJ (around $25, sometimes only paidThursday-Sunday), a fee for the bouncer who guards the lap dance area (around $25), and occasionally a feefor the “house mom” who acts as a stage director. Most of these additional fees are charged throughoutthe industry; however total daily fees for women within a driving network may reach several hundreddollars. These women often do not make enough money each day to pay off the fees. Transportation- Transportation from where the women live to the clubs is often lengthy. ProfessorDonna Hughes, in an IOM report, notes that sometimes the victims are housed in Brighton Beach andBrooklyn, NY and are transported to clubs in northern New Jersey.4 Travel Time- Since it takes time to get to the clubs, the women often must leave many hours before theirshift begins. In the larger driving networks, it is likely that the women are supplied to different clubs. Inthis case, the vans will make several stops to drop women off. This means that a woman might be droppedoff several hours before her shift begins or may spend extensive time in the car. Vehicles- In larger driving networks, women may be transported in larger, 15 passenger vans, though theorganizations have also used SUV’s and other vehicles. In some cases, the license plates for the vans willbe from states other than those where the organization is operating. Even within an operation, the licenseplates might be different states from one van to another. With larger driving networks, after the womenare picked up from the clubs, the vans may meet in a central location. The women will switch vans,presumably to be in a van with their other housemates, under watch of the drivers. Organized Crime Connection- Though the extent of the connection between the driving networks andorganized crime is unclear, the FBI believes these are fronts for organized crime.5In New Jersey and NewYork, investigators also believe that Russian Organized Crime is forced to pay a tax to La Costa Nostra,which is encouraging the organization to spread its operations elsewhere.6Characteristics of Potential Victims The women are primarily from Russia or Eastern European countries. Usually the women are in their 20’s, but some may be minors. Occasionally, they are housed with 6-7 other people in an off-site one bedroom apartment. If asked, many of the women state they are in America as university students learning English. As noted byWalter Zalisko, this could be a “canned response” that the women are coached to give.7 The interviews done by Walter Zalisko suggest that half of the women come on student visas and halfcome on fraudulent visas obtained through organized crime.8 The level of freedom seems to vary. Some women say they are able to go to the beach or to shop, othersclaim their movement is restricted and that they do not have enough time to get adequate sleep. Occasionally, the women indicate they have debts in their home countries, though it is unclear who holdsthese debts. Walter Zalisko suggests the debts range from $5,000-$20,000.94Donna Hughes, Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: The Case of the Russian Federation, IOM Migration Research Series No. 7 (Geneva: InternationalOrganization for Migration, 2002).5Amy ONeill Richard, International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime, (Center for theStudy of Intelligence, 1999).6Walter Zalisko, "Russian Organizaed Crime: Trafficking in Women and Governments Response," PMCI Group, 1999,http://www.policeconsultant.com/index6.htm (accessed October 07, 2010).7Ibid.8Ibid.9Ibid.Polaris Project | National Human Trafficking Resource Center | 1-888-3737-888 | NHTRC@PolarisProject.orgwww.PolarisProject.org © Copyright Polaris Project, 2011. All Rights Reserved
  3. 3. New Jersey/New York Russian Driving Networks At-A-Glance | Polaris Project While some of the women are unhappy with their situations and feel that they were misled, others say theyknew exactly what type of work they were coming to do. Sometimes, the women return for multiplesummers and will be encouraged to help to find other employees for the Driving Network.10Vulnerabilities to Human Trafficking Extensive, Pre-determined Schedules- The networks seem to house the women far from where theywork and occasionally drop them off well ahead of their scheduled shift. Likewise, their shifts last untilearly morning, when they are again driven a long distance back to where they live. This schedule is not onlyexhausting, it also isolates the women from anyone living and working a traditional 9am to 5pm day. Debts/Payments- Occasionally, the women are required to pay a fee to come to the U.S., which caninduce them to stay until the debt is repaid. There is usually a daily fee paid to the Driving Network, andsometimes other fees to the club as detailed above, pushing the women into debt bondage. Restricted Movement- The women’s transportation is arranged for them, and provided by individualswho are part of the network. These individuals also monitor the women’s interactions with outsiders. Threats of Physical Violence/Organized Crime- At times, the women are threatened with physicalviolence if they complain or try to leave. In the U.S. v. Trakhtenberg case, women were told the moneythey owed was going to the mafia, and if they did not pay, the mafia would harm them or their families. Threats of Deportation- Since some of the women work under fraudulent visas, they may also face thethreat of deportation. The Driving Network may threaten to report the women to the immigrationauthorities as means of instilling fear or intimidation. Minors-Though not prevalent, there is some indication that some of the networks might exploit minors.Recent Driving Network Trafficking Convictions US v. Trakhtenberg: Lev Trakhtenberg and his wife operated a Driving Network and forced approximately25 female victims to dance nude at strip clubs in New Jersey for up to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. Thewomen were transported by a former boxer to the club from apartments that were far away from theirwork and were required to pay $1,200 a week to Trakhtenberg and his wife. They were threatened withviolence either to themselves or to their families if they did not pay. The traffickers made the womenbelieve that serious harm would come to them or to their families, possibly through organized crime, if theydid not continue to dance and pay the fees required.1112In June of 2005, Trakhtenberg was sentenced to 60months in prison and was ordered to pay $66,380 in restitution to the victims.13 U.S.v. Maksimenko: Aleksandr Maksimenko was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay morethan $1.5 million in restitution in 2006 after pleading guilty to charges relating to his role in operating aDriving Network and forcing young women from the Ukraine and Russia to dance in strip clubs in Detroit,MI14. Maksimenko and his business partner Michael Aronov, who also pleaded guilty, used document10Ibid.11Robert Hanley, “Plea Deal for Man Who Forced Russians to Work in Strip Clubs,” New York Times, December 2, 2004.http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/02/nyregion/02russian.html?_r=1&ref=robert_hanley (accessed September 13, 2010).12Department of Justice, “Russian Entertainment Promoter Gets 5 Years for Extorting Russian Women to Dance at New Jersey Strip Clubs,”Department of Justice, http://www.justice.gov/usao/nj/press/files/trak0603_r.htm (accessed September 13, 2010).13The United States Attorneys Office District of New Jersey, “Ilina, Viktoriya Guilty Plea News Release,” The United States Attorneys OfficeDistrict of New Jersey, http://www.justice.gov/usao/nj/press/files/ilin0103_r.htm (accessed September 13, 2010).14Department of Justice, “Livonia Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison and $1.5 Million in Restitution for Forcing Eastern European Women toWork at Detroit Area Strip Clubs,” Department of Justice, http://www.legislationline.org/documents/action/popup/id/6765 (accessed April 6,2011).Polaris Project | National Human Trafficking Resource Center | 1-888-3737-888 | NHTRC@PolarisProject.orgwww.PolarisProject.org © Copyright Polaris Project, 2011. All Rights Reserved
  4. 4. New Jersey/New York Russian Driving Networks At-A-Glance | Polaris Projectconfiscation, debt manipulation, isolation, threats of violence, and threats of deportation to compel thewomen to work in a strip club15.Polaris Project works to empower and mobilize people from diverse backgrounds and of all ages to take meaningful action against humantrafficking. Register with www.polarisproject.org/signup to receive regular updates on human trafficking in the United States.15Grace Kahng. "Sex slaves, human trafficking ... in America? One young woman shares the story of how she escaped from forced labor." MSNBC,December 3, 2007. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/22083762/ns/today-today_people/ (accessed April 6, 2011).Polaris Project | National Human Trafficking Resource Center | 1-888-3737-888 | NHTRC@PolarisProject.orgwww.PolarisProject.org © Copyright Polaris Project, 2011. All Rights Reserved